On January 23, 2019, Tom Precious of the Buffalo News published an article, New York lawmakers end mandate tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, that aptly summarizes the state’s next move on teacher evaluations and the tie to NYS student test scores.
I’ve been a superintendent since before the APPR requirements. In every district I’ve worked, there has been a strong evaluation system in place with regular evaluations of all teachers and administrators. Initially, I thought that the APPR law would help us to improve the quality of instruction for every student through the emphasis on test scores. I was wrong about that but there is some good that’s come out of it.
What’s worked well: requiring professional development on effective evaluation for all evaluators, the use of quality rubrics, the number of evaluations or site visits and the conversations that both precede and follow an observation. In my experience, the evaluation portion of the regulations has made a significant positive difference for our students.
What’s not worked well: The APPR law which ties employment decisions to the composite score of every teacher and principal, based on student assessments, has not improved anything. In different degrees in likely every building, the use of this composite score based on building wide or individual measures of student performance has done nothing but result in either an over emphasis on test prep, passive compliance with the regs, fear of reprisals based on the performance of the students in an educator’s class or building, intense pressure for better test scores which don’t necessarily mean enhanced learning opportunities. Composite scores, HEDI scales, state test scores and SLOs tied to teachers and principals have definitely NOT improved learning for the students we serve.
In a time when we struggle to bring young people into teaching, undue pressures from state lawmakers are not helping our profession. Our local Boards of Education and NYSED are the only governing bodies who should issue regulations on teacher and principal evaluation.
This current change in the law that ends the mandate to tie teacher and principal evaluations to test scores, before Governor Cuomo now, isn’t going far enough to fix this mess. Now we will have to negotiate with our local unions to determine what measures of student performance we will use instead of NYS tests—when many educators and families don’t believe that tests should be used as separate factors at all. How much testing do we want our students to have? In our district, many of our families and members of our school community, including BOE members, believe we’re testing students too much already.
We believe that student performance should definitely be a factor in teacher and principal evaluation. But in every district, how student success is defined may be different. Capturing the values of a community and what they most believe about learning for our children may not necessarily be quantified in a test.
In an effort to propose a proactive solution, I suggest we add a component on the evaluation rubric that assesses student performance. The authors of our current state approved evaluation rubrics can add a domain/section to each of the evaluation rubrics that speaks to the critical importance of responsibility for student performance. Make it a part of pre and post observation discussions, include goal setting, and a rubric score that eliminates the need for student assessment as a separate score in the overall evaluation.
We’ve all been complying with a law that hasn’t done what it set out to do–improve educator practice by holding us all accountable for student performance because it did so through the testing of our students. Let’s stop this exercise in compliance that doesn’t improve education for our children. Let’s instead include student performance as a part of the evaluation rubrics.